Dick Hyman 'The Great American Songbook'
"...richly hued, rhythmically varied, constantly swinging and wholly delightful series of performances."
This is another migrant from the MusicMasters back catalogue so effortlessly translated to Nimbus's Jazz marquee. And timely it is because too many Hyman sessions have been languishing of late. So a warm welcome to this most literate, swinging and life enhancing pianist whose recordings bring such joie de vivre to everything he touches.
This double album bears the fruit of sessions recorded between 1987 and 1992. Gershwin, Porter, Arlen and Berlin are the composers represented and Hyman plays solo throughout, with songs by each composer democratically interspersed. The first thing to comment on is the outstanding sound quality throughout the recording sessions.
Begin the Beguine is a compendium, a lexicon of Hymanesque procedure; wonderfully voiced chords, clever harmonic movement, Teddy Wilson-inspired treble runs, Stride patterns and a consistently buoyant sense of movement. In his hands Lady of the Evening becomes a kind of tone poem before a Walleresque jauntiness arrives, along with Baroque-feinting figures; all these things are grist to the Hyman mill. There again even such a vehicle as Over the rainbow is turned into a mini Fantasia so inventive and fertile is his imagination and ear for texture and colour. Another influence that haunts his playing is Harlem Stride master James P Johnson, who flecks Fascinating Rhythm so infectiously.
The roving mobility of Hyman's left hand is a feature throughout but especially in, say, I've got my love to keep me warm where the independence of the hands adds piquant thrill, as well as a blues-drenched aura to the playing. Conversely Were thine that special face has the feel and sensibility of a Nocturne, so richly and romantically voiced is it. But the driving verve of his playing can't be denied for long and Soft lights and sweet music gets a quick fire workout.
Hyman is a witty musician, as his larky Liza shows with its tempo changes galore. He sees A woman's prerogative through the prism of a railroad blues, and there's just a hint of Erroll Garner in All through the night as well as a huge amount of sophisticated swing and Stride bravado. The playing in The man I love never stands still, it's constantly evolving and this mutability is one of the secrets to Hyman's success over two discs; he really compels attention throughout the span of a notoriously unforgiving form, the solo piano recital. Easy to love is something of a tour de force and there's the charming A sleepin' bee to bring down the curtain on an eventful, richly hued, rhythmically varied, constantly swinging and wholly delightful series of performances.
Jonathan Woolf, Musicweb-international.com